Advocacy Updates: July 19, 2023


July 19, 2023 | by Amber Smock

Access Living friends and allies,

We know it’s been a while! We’d like to update you on several important disability developments in Chicago and Illinois.

Plow the Sidewalks Passes: 

Today, Chicago’s City Council voted to pass the Plow the Sidewalks ordinance. The ordinance previously passed committee with some important compromise changes. The final ordinance that passed today establishes a working group of City staff within the next 60 days, to design the Plow the Sidewalks pilot program by May 31, 2024. The working group is required to consult with Aldermen and community members no less than three times before finalizing their recommendations.

While the working group process adds more time to implementing the pilots than originally envisioned, the establishment of a work process is a victory resulting from the hard work of many committed activists. Nonetheless, we urge community members to keep the City accountable for creating a formal snow removal program. Access Living and Better Streets Chicago will keep up our advocacy. We are tired of waiting for sidewalks to be cleared, and years of relying on volunteers or goodwill have not created much progress. Let’s plow the sidewalks NOW!

Ending Cash Bail in Illinois: 

Yesterday, the Illinois State Supreme Court upheld the SAFE-T new state law that requires ending the use of cash bail, or money bond, statewide. The law will now go into effect on September 18. Originally, the law was supposed to go into effect on January 1. Ending cash bail in Illinois is important for people with disabilities because so many of us don’t have extra money for emergencies, and because 43% of people with disabilities are likely to be arrested by the age of 28. The new system aims to ensure that only those who pose actual harm to the community remain in jail before trial.

Chicago Board of Education Appointments: 

The City of Chicago is due to transition to an elected school board starting in November 2024. In the meantime, Mayor Brandon Johnson has appointed six new Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Board members, including Mary Fahey Hughes, a well-known special education advocate, and several people known for their focus on lifting up marginalized Chicago communities. The full announcement can be viewed here.

Chicago Disability Pride Parade: 

Last but not least, we’d like to remind you that the Chicago Disability Pride Parade is on Saturday! Line-up is at 10 am at 401 S. Plymouth. The Parade will step off at 11 am and march up Dearborn to Daley Plaza, where there will be a festival till about 1:30 or 2 pm. The paratransit address for the festival is 50 W. Washington. Access Living will be out in force! If you would like to march with us, please contact Nick Boyle, Also, come check out our table at the festival!

Please share this info with fellow advocates. Thank you!